November 23, 2011

Love them or hate them, the 3 storey walk-up is the most common form of apartment type in Australia. But changes to the Building Code in the form of the new National Construction Code may be the death of this ubiquitous form of construction.

The typology has its roots back in the 1920s, but the seeds for wide adoption of the walk-up were in the 1960s, as new strata title laws increased their popularity creating an affordable foothold in the housing market.

Our suburbs are peppered with these developments. In New Farm for instance the apartment complexes from the 1930s and earlier are a valuable part of the diversity of the suburbs character and fabric. The “six packs” from the 60s and 70s have not reached the same acceptance- and perhaps never will. So love them or hate them, 3 Storey Walk-Ups have filled a much needed affordable niche in the housing market but they may be no longer a viable option.

The new codes require access to the foyer and front door of all new apartments at all levels, unless there are a minimum of two accessible ground floor apartments. Common areas must also be accessible. This can be almost impossible without a lift on a flood prone or steep site.

As a result, small developments sites are now much more difficult to stack up as the costs of lifts are amortised over too few apartments. A solid due diligence is required when looking at a new site as these issues affect viability and layout.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom, there is upside too. In making lifted apartments and industry standard, we are making a more future proof housing option with broader appeal for our aging generation.

Also, there has always been a great deal of uncertainty about the equitable access rules and how they work in conjunction with the building code. These issues are now covered in a single document, giving much greater clarity to the minimum requirements. To review these in greater details, click here.